Fresh off a season opening win at Palmetto High School against the Tigers, the Venice baseball team had a 21-hour turnaround as it went back on the road to face Cardinal Mooney on Friday.
Led by the pitching of right-hander Danny Rodriguez, the Indians (2-0) grabbed an early lead and held on for a 2-1 win despite a late Cougars rally.
“You get home at 11 o’clock after a late-night game, you come here and rush out of school, everybody drives up here,” Venice coach Craig Faulkner said. “We don’t get to hit and we don’t get to get in our routine. I’m pretty proud of how they handled themselves.”
As they did in Game 1, the Indians jumped out to an early lead with a first-inning run from Michael Robertson, who reached on an infield single and scored on a passed ball with two outs.
“It was nice coming into the game winning 1-0 already,” Rodriguez said. “It’s big. If you come out here with a lead, you feel so much more comfortable throwing.”
The senior pitcher allowed four base runners to reach through his first three innings, but two double plays in the first and third innings helped keep the Cougars off the scoreboard.
The Indians scored again in the third as shortstop Kevin Dubrule knocked in Zac Calhoon with an RBI single to right field. Then they turned to their senior starter to preserve the 2-0 lead.
Rodriguez, who said he was at first uncomfortable with the mound elevation, quickly settled in to a rhythm, facing the minimum nine batters over his final three innings.
With Rodriguez and Cougars pitcher Jake Jackson working through each lineup with ease, an hour had hardly passed by the time the Cougars were batting in the home half of the sixth inning.
But they found some brief success against Indians right-hander Jacob Faulkner, who came on in relief of Rodriguez in the sixth inning. The Cougars pieced together three hits, scoring once but stranding two as Venice held on to a 2-1 lead.
The Cougars put some energy in the home crowd with back-to-back singles to open the seventh off Venice pitcher Clay Callan, but the senior snuffed out their rally with a timely throw to third base on a bunt from the next batter, beating the lead runner to third by a split-second.
A pop out to centerfield and a strikeout later, and the Indians had escaped the threat of losing their first game.
Venice 5, Palmetto 0Venice pitcher Orion Kerkering allowed two runners to reach base in the first inning on an error and a single, but that’s just about all he would surrender to Palmetto on Thursday night.
Over the next four innings, Kerkering would strike out eight batters and allow just one more batter to reach base — on a walk — as he cruised through the Tigers lineup in Venice’s 5-0 win at Palmetto High School
“Kerkering overpowers a lot of teams,” Venice coach Craig Faulkner said. “He throws in the 90s and he’s got his hammer. He struggled a little bit early, but when he gets it on, he is dealing. I think at one point we struck out eight guys in a row between Kerkering and the sidearm guys.
“We have tough pitching. Our goal is to be really strong defensively and to dominate on the mound.”
Following two straight days of cancelled games due to impending rain, Venice (1-0) finally opened its season against Palmetto on Thursday in typical Indians fashion.
Venice relied on strong pitching that struck out 15 of 22 possible batters and used two runs off sacrifices — one in the first inning off a sac fly from Mac Guscette and another off a sac bunt from Ryan Marti in the fourth inning — to build a lead.
After wearing down the Palmetto pitching staff, Venice broke through for a three-hit seventh inning in which it added three more runs to pad its score.
However, the insurance runs would hardly be necessary as sidearm relievers Jacob Faulkner and Clay Callan came on to throw perfect innings — striking out the side in the sixth and seventh innings.